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Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 12

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.

The prevalent corruption and falsehood of the times is the theme of this psalm. Not that every individual is false, but that the leading men and governing spirit of society are so. True men are afraid to speak out, and flattery and deceit prevail. The psalmist is alone in the midst of these fickle tides, himself their victim. It suits well the history of 1 Samuel 23:0. The psalm generally falls into two parts: the complaint, Psalms 12:1-4, and the answer of Jehovah and David’s amen thereto, Psalms 12:5-8.TITLE:

Upon Sheminith That is, upon the eighth, or octave. See note on the title of Psalms 6:0

Verse 1

1. Help, Lord The call is abrupt, impassioned, and universal. The verb has no object, because the evil is not local and personal, but general.

The godly man ceaseth Better, the merciful man ceaseth; exactly parallel to Micah 7:2: “The good man is perished out of the earth.” The earth is given up to violence and rapine. On the use of חסיד , ( hhasid,) godly, merciful, see on Psalms 4:3; Psalms 86:2.

The faithful Literally, the amen people. Those who believe and speak the truth and keep their word. Men have ceased to regulate their conduct one with another by the law of kindness and truth. Compare the complaint of Elijah, 1Ki 19:10 ; 1 Kings 19:14.

Children of men Sons of Adam, a designation of an earthborn, degenerate race, as opposed to “sons of God.”

Verse 2

2. They speak vanity That is, emptiness; their words are devoid of meaning, because they do not truly represent any thing, the speaker having no intention of fulfilling what is promised, or of stating things as they really exist.

Flattering lips Slippery words.

A double heart Literally, a heart and a heart; that is, a heart to make a given impression by his slippery words, and another heart to do the opposite to that impression. Opposed to a “perfect heart,” 1 Chronicles 12:33; 1 Chronicles 12:38

Verse 3

3. Flattering lips… tongue that speaketh proud things Two opposite characters, the dissembler and the self-confident boaster, alike abominable to God.

Verse 4

4. With our tongue will we prevail The tongue is often a more deadly weapon than the sword, and these boasters seem to have been aware of its envenomed power. These men would be weak in open war, but were terrible in flattery, evil counsel, and lies. Here-in lay their strength, of which they boasted, not knowing that a just God rules, and that the world is not abandoned to become the victim of tricks and contrivances.

Our lips are our own Literally, our lips are with us; are our servants, subject to our will.

Who is lord over us Here is the climax of their arrogance and impudence.

Verse 5

5. For the oppression of the poor “For” is here causal, because of the oppression, and marks the point where the divine forbearance ends and the work of judgment begins.

Saith the Lord This is the date of the answer of prayer; Jehovah saith, or will say. The word goes forth, and faith is assured.

From him that putteth at him Many critics read, “I will set him in safety who panteth after it;” but it seems more in conformity with the connexion to understand פוח , ( pooahh,) to breathe, blow, puff, in the contemptuous sense of scorn see note on Psalms 10:5

Verse 6

6. The words of the Lord are pure words The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings. From the lying lips and perverse speeches of the wicked already noticed, by which they thought to compass their ends, the psalmist turns with adoring delight to the pure and perfect words of God, by which, and not by the falsehood and arrogance of man, the world shall be governed.

Furnace of earth The word עליל , ( aleel,) furnace, which occurs nowhere else in Scripture, has been translated workshop, from the root idea, to work, perform, accomplish: and of earth has been understood as denoting, as to earth, thus making the passage read, Silver tried in a workshop, ( as to earth,) that is, purged from its earthy particles, its dross, scoria. Others more naturally understand it of a furnace, crucible, or melting pot made of earth, which gives a better construction, and one more in harmony with the figure. It is no objection to this latter view, that it takes “earth” in the unusual sense of element, or material.

Seven times A proverbial phrase for perfectly, completely.

Verse 7

7. Thou shalt keep them That is, thy people, thy suffering people, though surrounded on all sides by wicked persecutors.

Thou shalt preserve them Hebrew, Thou wilt preserve him, the persecuted saint, the singular being used as a personification.

From this generation From the men of this age, and from the same men of every age. The character of the age is given in Psalms 12:1-2. Compare Acts 2:40; Matthew 11:16; Matthew 11:22. The hostile attitude of the world towards the Church distinguishes all generations.

For ever To eternity. The deliverance of the righteous shall not be temporal only, but perpetual, for ever. Less than this neither the language nor subject will admit.

Verse 8

8. The wicked walk on every side They walk round and round. The phrase not only intimates numerically their multitude, (Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 60:4,) but also, that they wear an air of wantonness and arrogance, as conscious of holding the sway of public affairs.

When the vilest men are exalted This gives the cause of the degeneracy of the times. Proverbs 28:12. Base, low, weak, and worthless men in power will ruin any age. Let Christian voters of this country see to it. The psalmist ends where he begins, with an echo of Psalms 12:1-2, but sustained by the wordof Jehovah, who (Psalms 12:5) promises deliverance.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-12.html. 1874-1909.
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